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Poster: light into ashes Date: Aug 22, 2011 2:31am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: a student review in '72

A post on the JGMF blog called my attention to an obscure review of the Dead in the University of Virginia student newspaper the "Cavalier Daily", back in October 1972. The reviewer apparently saw the Dead for the first time on Sep 19 & 21, 1972, and felt compelled to write about them.

It's obscure for good reason....it's kind of pretentious & silly, very collegiate, not well-written. He reads like a music student.
But I thought I'd share it, without further comment, for those who might find it interesting.

Grateful Dead Resurrect Country, Blues, Jazz
by Rob Pritchard

Waiting for my first Grateful Dead concert, amid a euphorically chaotic crowd of some 16,000 "Dead freaks", a veteran of eight of their concerts remarked to me in a perfectly serious, matter-of-fact tone, "You know," he said, "I've finally found the meaning of life. Life is a Grateful Dead concert; all else but an interim."

Well, now that I have become a veteran of two Dead concerts, proudly displaying my ticket stub and grass-stained trousers alternately like well-earned battle scars and my keys to the pearly gate, I, too, have found the meaning of existence. Just point me toward the next Grateful Dead concert, if you will, please.

Being a veteran....holds special meaning in relation to a group such as the Grateful Dead. For after becoming familiar with a few of their songs, and especially after hearing them perform live, all of the rest warrant an actively involved perception.

This, however, is so obvious as to be absurd to a follower of Jerry Garcia and his merry band; in fact, it is this common assumption, common at least among fans, which allows Garcia the great freedom of movement, the breath-taking, mind-boggling runs, leaps and transitions, which mark him as one of the greatest guitar players ever to have fingered the instrument.

But perhaps Garcia's skill, complimented fully by Bob "Ace" Weir's rhythm guitar and Phil Lesh's bass, can be best observed in concert where his mastery over the guitar assumes at times a free-form, dream-like quality reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix at his best, and at other times, it reflects Garcia's rock and roll/blues roots....

Beginning an old standard, such as "Trucking" or "Uncle John's Band", in the traditional manner, the Grateful Dead, with Garcia forging ahead, soon severs all ties with the original tune, preferring instead to launch an evolutionary exploration into areas where sensory perception and intellect affect and react to each other directly. For perhaps 20 minutes, though it is often hard to say, complete dominance is maintained over the crowd by Garcia's initial hypnotic thematic statements and slight variations thereof.

With the audience firmly under their control, however, the Grateful Dead quickly shift from supportive blues rhythms and country leads to an extremely active texture highlighted by Garcia's excursions into dream-like runs which unite to produce a stream of consciousness effect quite unprecedented in the area of popular music.

But the Dead are never static. Having once established and elaborated upon a statement, they slide, often by use of syncopation and imitation, into an entirely different presentation; from, for instance, variations on a country/blues theme to an almost surreal interpretation of progressive jazz.

This can be readily observed in "Saint Stephen" and "The Eleven", two continuous songs which occupy an entire side on the rather old, yet still masterfully innovative, first Live/Dead album. Beginning slowly and ambiguously by covering a wide range, as much by implication as by actual statement, the Dead suddenly blast into a follow-up of the major motive, establishing the thematic pattern upon which the vocals are supported and to which the Dead return after developing lengthy variations and additional themes.

Following a brilliant interpretation of the original statement which seems effortlessly to roll off their fingertips into the listener's mind, a device, by the way, they frequently use to bridge the gap between the here and there, the powerfully subtle Bill Kreutzmann on drums and Phil Lesh lead the others through an extremely difficult transition in which they change time while repositioning themselves in order to explode into "The Eleven."

Since the recording of Live/Dead, the Grateful Dead's style has undergone a number of changes, perhaps the most dramatic of which was the adaptation of country music and the resultant album, Workingmans Dead (1970). Although still heavily influenced by country music, the influence is now an inherent one, the Dead's roots having sprouted forth from country, rock and roll and blues; the distinction between them is increasingly difficult to define.

Another important alteration, and one which promises to aid greatly in the continued evolution of the Grateful Dead, both individually and collectively, is the freedom allowed members of the group to play and record with other artists. Most notable in this regard is Garcia, who has performed on at least four major independent albums in the last year or so, although on most, members of the Dead play as well. Weir, also, has recently recorded an excellent album entitled Ace. Here, too, the musicians are all members of the Grateful Dead.

Perhaps the best recorded example of what may be yet another turn in style, and one which was embryonically apparent in at least two of the Dead's latest concerts (Philadelphia and Washington) can be found in a largely undiscovered album Garcia recorded with Howard Wales, called Hooteroll? Without a doubt, Garcia's collaboration with the superb blues/jazz organist, Wales, will continue to produce dramatically important results.

To a large extent, the Dead's recent dream-like style of playing, characterized by slowly evolving, minutely subtle melodies which at times are intentionally shattered (to say nothing of our minds) by powerfully syncopated chords and notes, by Lesh's imitation and by a general accelerando, can be attributed to Garcia's experiences with Wales on Hooteroll? It seems likely, too, that the increased influence and often outright performance of jazz preeminently displayed throughout much of their latter concerts can be developmentally traced to Hooteroll? as well.

What these stylistic refinements hold in store is hard to say at this point, although I have heard that a new double or triple album recorded live in New York [sic], and soon to be released, will provide ample testimony to the continuing musical evolution of the Grateful Dead. Until then, and with pardons extended to Mick Jagger for this gross interpretation, "I don't want to talk 'bout Garcia, just wanta hear him play."

http://xtf.lib.virginia.edu/xtf/view?docId=2006_09/uvaBook/tei/cavdaily_19721006.xml&;query=Grateful%20Dead

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Poster: AltheaRose Date: Aug 22, 2011 6:39am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: a student review in '72

Anyone on the forum gonna own up to being Rob Pritchard?

Inspired by LiA's sleuthing, I wondered if I could find anything old and fun, so I checked the MIT archives (thinking of the May shows and the Dead supposedly hanging out with Lagin in his dorm, or however that story goes.)

Nothing on that, but I did learn that "Ned Lagin of east campus" was knocked unconscious when he tried to break up a fight with some drunk high-school boys. (Nov 1, 1968.)

And how's this for purple prose from Feb 1970:

"Since the Dead's music was supposed to beat the mind into the consistency of butterscotch pudding, the sounds were deemed to be good if they raped the listener's head, and catalyzed spaced-outedness."

http://tech.mit.edu/V90/ (Search on Grateful Dead. Oh, and BK alert ... the writer goes on to talk about classical sources of "freaky music." He's very into his subject. Butterscotch pudding and all.)

I bet college paper archives are great sources -- of history, for the historically minded, and of embarrassment, for the budding writers in later life :-)

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Poster: ringolevio Date: Aug 22, 2011 8:28am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: a student review in '72

>the Dead's music was supposed to beat the mind into the consistency of butterscotch pudding,

Are we sure this is from 1972? This sounds like my son's opinion!

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Poster: ringolevio Date: Aug 22, 2011 8:26am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: a student review in '72

Oh, I don't think it's so bad. Puffily collegiate, I suppose, but many of the reviews on the archive are far worse and the writer doesn't have the excuse of being 20 years old.

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Poster: adks12020 Date: Aug 22, 2011 5:33am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: a student review in '72

I don't even know what to say about this...other than it's really obvious that the writer needed to develop more. The excitement of having attended the shows is obvious but the pseudo-intellectual tone of the article is almost funny (and a little irritating).

It's kind of cool to get a perspective from someone new to the music in one of the bands most important development stages but the writing was so bad (although I'm sure the author thought he deserved an A+++)I could barely finish it.

Neat little piece of history though.

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Poster: TOOTMO Date: Aug 22, 2011 6:26am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: a student review in '72

"I don't even know what to say about this...other than it's really obvious that the writer needed to develop more."

He did develope more. To millions, he is known and loved as "JBOYAQUAR"—the Zamfir of Show Reviews.


TOOTMO

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Poster: jglynn1.2 Date: Aug 22, 2011 9:39am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: a student review in '72

Exactly what I thought when I read the article.

J boy Rs first review

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Poster: bkidwell Date: Aug 22, 2011 9:03am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: a student review in '72

I love it! Despite the flaws (some questionable use of terminology) it's clear the author "really hears" the music in a way that almost no professional rock critics ever did.

There is definitely a trace of "pretentiousness" here, because the author likes to use musical terms without a lot of precision. A couple examples that stuck out to me:

"Having once established and elaborated upon a statement, they slide, often by use of syncopation and imitation"

"by Lesh's imitation and by a general accelerando"

Syncopation is rhythmic accentuation of beats that aren't the aligned with the primary pulse - for instance, in the main theme of "the Other One" the big accent at the end of the phrase is syncopated. Breaking out of a steady pulse entirely is different. Accelerando is just increase of tempo and is actually pretty rare in the GD's music apart from adjusting the tempo of a song when it starts after a transitional passage - and I'd say decelerandos are actually more common in that context. Only Viola Lee Blues makes extensive use of accelerando as a core element of the music.

Despite these quibbles and while acknowledging that a good editor would trim a few adjectives and assertions, this student review puts the vast majority of the work of professional rock critics to shame. The average "rock critic" understands almost nothing about music and only comments about the subjective semiotics of the band's sound and style. The musical idiocy of rock critics is typified by their belief that 4 minute songs were decreed by God and that more extended musical statements are "self-indulgent".

Anyway, there was a time in the past when writing about music was often very poetic and subjective - too much of a topic for me to address at length now, but I'll paste an excerpt from James Huneker's book on Chopin which gives a hint:

--
Forsooth, it is aristocratic, gay, graceful, piquant, and also something more. Even in its playful moments there is delicate irony, a spiritual sporting with graver and more passionate emotions. Those broken octaves which usher in each time the second theme, with its fascinating, infectious, rhythmical lilt, what an ironically joyous fillip they give the imagination!

"A coquettish grace—if we accept by this expression that half unconscious toying with the power that charms and fires, that follows up confession with reluctance—seems the very essence of Chopin's being."

"It becomes a difficult task to transcribe the easy transitions, full of an irresistible charm, with which he portrays Love's game. Who will not recall the memorable passage in the A flat Ballade, where the right hand alone takes up the dotted eighths after the sustained chord of the sixth of A flat? Could a lover's confusion be more deliciously enhanced by silence and hesitation?" Ehlert above evidently sees a ballroom picture of brilliancy, with the regulation tender avowal. The episodes of this Ballade are so attenuated of any grosser elements that none but psychical meanings should be read into them.
--

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Poster: ringolevio Date: Aug 22, 2011 10:46am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: a student review in '72

God, that one's almost soft porn.

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Poster: light into ashes Date: Aug 22, 2011 10:08am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: a student review in '72

Yeah, I thought it was interesting - he was really hearing what the Dead were doing, and made an effort to relate what he heard in concert to previous albums, but unfortunately tried to describe it in this intellectual way that he wasn't quite up to. Definitely a music student - I was struck by his use of terms like "imitation" and "motive," had to look them up & found that they're genuine musical terms.
It's a bad sign, though, when you have to look up the writer's terms to guess what he's talking about... I think the reviewer's mind might have been rather, um, cloudy when he was writing this - a lot of confused sentence structure, vague terms, etc! But we all know how many college papers read like that...

But still worth it to see that even in '72 there were hardcore deadheads saying, "Life is a Grateful Dead concert; all else but an interim."

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Poster: ringolevio Date: Aug 22, 2011 10:44am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: a student review in '72

>we all know how many college papers read like that

Seriously now, I've got to defend the guy again. College papers read like that?! I edit the work of people with long strings of degrees after their names, and often it is not as well written as that review. Many college kids today can't write papers at all, they just buy them on the Internet.

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Poster: adks12020 Date: Aug 23, 2011 5:46am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: a student review in '72

I just want to point out that professors these days have computer programs that will find evidence of plagiarism in about a minute. I know it's easy to talk about the good old days having better standards but it just isn't true. College is way more competitive now than it's ever been and you can't just whip up a plagiarised paper without getting caught most assuming the teacher isn't stupid...excerpt from NPR affiliate regarding a story on famous quotations...

"Literary Review “Academics like me are skilled users of turnitin.com. Never heard of it? Ask the nearest undergraduate and watch their cheek blanch. Turnitin is the trade’s leading ‘plagiarism detector’. You upload the student’s essay or dissertation and it’s checked against trillions of words and phrases in seconds.”

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Poster: ringolevio Date: Aug 23, 2011 5:50am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: a student review in '72

Oh, I know, I agree really, I am always skeptical of the notion that "Everything is worse nowdays" wherever it's applied, and academics is definitely one such place. I think school is much tougher now than when I went ... I'd be judged a turnip intellectually now at the schools my son has attended.

But as long as we're being contrary, I think the plagiarism detection programs are overrated also. Often, you can detect plagiarism by copying and pasting a paragraph or two into google. The programs catch more subtle cases, I suppose.

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Poster: William Tell Date: Aug 23, 2011 10:44am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: a student review in '72

Everyone uses it in the sciences; and unless I am doing a writing intensive class, I simply stopped assigning the classic term paper (there are other more efficient means of teaching writing, reviewing the lit, etc., etc.).

It only takes a line or two to detect the issue; it's easy for profs to run their term papers through it, so students are starting to get the message.

As to "then and now", from having never left the field, and from both sides (three boys in or finished), the biggest difference is the web/etc allowing students to find online courses (everywhere now, yuck) that are so absurdly easy it is just a joke. Seriously--had sons do an ave of 30 min work a week for 3 credit course. Some online courses are good, but students gravitate toward the easy ones. Duh--I would have too.

That said, Cal in the 70s was tough; Cal today is tough. No real change there, in spite of my blather above. You get what you put into it, of course, and great educations can be had at most any recognized state school cross the country. But, you can get "an easy degree" much more easily today that 30 yrs ago, just due to the web, etc., info exchange, blah, blah, blah.

IMnotsoHO.

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Poster: adks12020 Date: Aug 23, 2011 6:01am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: a student review in '72

yeah I graduated back in 2004 and I actually used to help roomates write papers. I remember reading one of my friend's and thinking something sounded familiar so I googled the quote...sure enough he lifted it without citation. I mean it fit in the paper perfectly but I was like "man if the quote is familiar to me and you can google it, you'd better cite it"

I actually still google things like that. It drives me nuts when I remember hearing or reading something but I can't figure out where.

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Poster: light into ashes Date: Aug 22, 2011 11:30am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: a student review in '72

Ah, sorry, I was thinking 1972 college standards, not today's standards! :)

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